That’s what life feels like to me..like it’s “just rollin’ right along”. That’s not to say its a bad thing…just Life. 🙂 I must admit, lately I’ve been at a loss as to what to write about. It seems as though all that enthusiasm I normally have for sharing is kinda on simmer at the moment. In my early stages of blogging I had so much to share. Everything was new and exciting. And although Its been just under a year and a half since our move and we’re still feeling like ’newbies’ in this new life, most of the major milestones of getting ourselves settled into a new life have passed. Most of our day to day lives at the moment seems to be taken up with our construction project. Sometimes It feels a little repetitive writing about each new thing that’s happening with that. And then the rest of the time, well, I’m finding myself just living a pretty normal life, you know, paying bills, running errands, cleaning house, doing payroll, laundry, grocery shopping, blah, blah, blah…nothing especially different from life anywhere else.
The one big thing I don’t have in my day to day life anymore is a job….well, a paying job! Hah! Much of the time, when I’m getting up at 6:15 every morning to make breakfast and then drive down the hill to pick up our workers, I feel like I have a job! The difference being, I’m working for a different form of gratification, instead of working for a buck, I’m working for a mutual dream. No longer working to keep my head above water and pay bills and taxes, instead we work everyday creating something with our own two hands that makes us feel so good at the end of every day. At the end of the day, instead of counting , in my head, how much money I made in my day and stressing about weather or not I’ll make enough to pay all the bills, I’m thinking about the progress we made together to build something. We’re both, Scott & me, enjoying the satisfaction of knowing at the end of each passing day, that we did what we ‘chose’ to do that day and we did it all just for us. As apposed to doing what we ‘Had’ to do just to get by.
We spend time with people here who have a very similar mindset, people who have come here like us, to live their lives on their own terms , redefining how they live their day to day lives. And embracing whatever it is that makes them feel happy, healthy and satisfied. Its very interesting to live in a small community where many of the people who have also transplanted their lives here have very similar reasons for doing so. Not to say we expats are all here for the same reasons or that we all got to this place in our lives the same ways, but simply having the mindset, desire or drive to move away from all you know is a similarity we share with most people who have moved their lives to Panama. It seems like all the expats we meet here , even if they’re still working and making a living, share with us a sense of independence, wanderlust, and a deep desire to just live life differently than they did wherever they originated from. In that way, I often feel a certain ‘kinship’ with fellow expats who I meet along the way. Does that make sense?
Whenever we travel in Panama, no matter where we go, whether it be Panama City, Boca Chica, Bocas Del Toro, or just meeting new people up here in Boquete or David, the same question comes up, “how long have you lived here?” and “Where did you come from”…We all talk about where and why we decided to live here in Panama, how we like it there, what we do here and each story is very different. But the one thing that seems to be the same, no matter who you talk to is the joy and pleasure of having made the decision to move away from our former lives and to now call Panama home. We’ve met many who have lived in various different countries and others who plan to explore and experience living in different places before committing to one specific place just yet. I know there are many who make a move such as this and realize after a bit of time, that this life isn’t for them. And I say, good for them for giving it a try, because thats just what you have to do. Sometimes you really don’t know if you’ll like living in a place until you’ve given it a try.
As you know, life here isn’t the same as life in the states or in Canada. And for those who move to a different country expecting life to be the same as wherever it is they came from , they quickly become disillusioned and unhappy living here. In these cases, leaving is the best thing. Once in awhile you meet those ’negative nellies’ who just would not be happy anyplace they lived and consequently find,(it seems to me), great pleasure in attempting to spread their unhappiness to anyone they can manage to share it with. Yuck! You find these types of people all over the world, no matter where it is! Whatever…for the most part we’ve managed to steer clear of those types of people. And of course there are some, who, given their long experience of living here, feel the freedom and it seems sometimes even the need, to criticize or look down on all the new people arriving. Oh, there are blogs and forums where negativity reigns, for sure. But isnt that just life? It takes all kinds in this world, and it would be so dull if we were all the same. That being said, I’ve met more of the nicest, most generous, caring, fun, enthusiastic and sometimes quirky, people in this small town than anyplace I’ve ever spent time.
One thing that I just love here is the popularity of “Happy Hour”! Yes! Our kind of people!! Its just the BEST! After a long day of doing whatever it is that you do, Its just such a pleasure to have the time and energy to grab a drink at someones house or have people over to laugh and chat and enjoy relaxing in the company of good people at the end of a busy day. Not like my life before. The end of the day was just THE END! I was so spent from my day, the last thing I wanted to do was go to someones house or have someone over…there weren’t many “happy hours” after working 10-12 hour days. Even though Scott & I have been working on our construction project we aren’t completely drained most days and when someone sends a text or email saying, “come over for happy hour!” we’re both almost always game! I love having the time and especially energy to connect with people and socialize any day of the week. And to never have to look at a schedule or calendar to try to find a time to squeeze it in!
Obviously I can’t speak for others who’ve made this move, but for us the rhythm of our lives seems to have gradually taken on one of being much more ‘in the moment’. Its a managable pace and mindset that we’ve managed to embrace here. For us, we’ve found unending amounts of peace just by letting go of wanting more than we have this very moment. Not worrying about our credit score and the interest rate on our mortage, or what our next tax bill will be, has given us a peace of mind that is indescribable . Simply ridding ourselves of debt was one thing that was a huge burden off our shoulders. It’s especially liberating to have no mailbox full of junk mail and endless bills! Whoohooo!!! Although we’re just as busy as ever and get a lot done from day to day, our days don’t seem to drain us the same way as before. I think there’s something very peaceful about living moment by moment rather than spending so much energy focusing on the future and worrying about tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t look ahead and plan for more adventures or strategize about our future, but I guess what I’m trying to express is that before this move our focus was not nearly as balanced as it feels now. I think Scott & I tend to be pretty relaxed, mostly happy people, just by nature, but we were gradually becoming less and less happy with the way we were living our lives in California. Most of our friends from CA never felt that same sense of dissatisfaction that was slowly beginning to eat at us. I think they must feel, living in The Bay Area, as we feel here, a sense of peace, knowing that they are where they are meant to be. And that they are doing just what makes them feel happy, healthy and balanced in their lives. Most of our friends could never imagine leaving the Bay Area to live in Central America. Just like we couldn’t imagine staying in the Bay Area. How and where we choose to live our lives is so very personal and we all have such varying wants and needs in terms of finding that balance in our lives. I’m always deeply pleased for anyone who’s living their life wherever it is that they find their bliss!
Before our move we felt as though our life owned us, not that we owned our lives. We all have an opinion as to how we personally measure our success in this life. Too often , in my opinion, success seems to be measured by money and material possessions. I had fallen into that trap and was feeling myself drowning in my material possessions and my drive to make money to maintain all I had accumulated. In this new beginning we have a plan and a direction. As a couple we’re building a place to call home, which is something that we love, to have a home, a physical place that is a reflection of the two of us and it’s something that we both really love. To have an opportunity to actually physically work hard together to build our home is giving us such pleasure. More importantly, to us, we’re creating a life that won’t be putting us in debt. We’re living within our means this time. Had we not made the decision to make this drastic move to Panama there was no way for us to dig ourselves out of the life we had created.
When I read back what I’ve written I sound as though I’m complaining about what a horrible life we had…ahem…that’s not what I’m trying to express. Let me just say, we really loved our life in Los Altos, the people , our house, I loved my little salon and our circle of friends. But what was becoming more and more disillusioning to us was the sacrifices required to have all that we had. Sacrifices to our mental and emotional well being. The need to be so ultra focused on making a certain amount of money that would afford us that house and living in the town we lived in, eating at the restaurants we liked and drinking the wine that we liked and on and on….when we both began to realistically and honestly look at the small amount of time and energy we had leftover after working to maintain it all, it was becoming less and less rewarding and more and more of a burden. I think once we achieved what we were working for, somewhere down that road we simply changed our minds about what we actually wanted out of our life together.
I think we were kinda going down a path that seemed like the one we were ‘supposed’ to go down. Job, house, cars, clothes, occasional vacation, blah, blah, blah… Not really embracing a lot of meaningful and thoughtful intention as to our path and what we wanted from life, just cruising along doing what everyone else around us was doing. Luckily, we were both very fortunate to have achieved a satisfying amount of success in our choices in life that far. But, we kinda reached a plateau and for us, we realized what we had achieved seemed ,in the end, less than satisfying, it seemed like there should be ‘more’. As a result of this realization, we collectively decided to pursue a totally different path. We began to design a path that was uniquely ours. We had to set aside what society had taught us was the ‘right’ path. We had to ignore what all our friends and family thought we should be doing. We had found ourselves unwilling to continue to conform to others ideals for a familiar, safe, common, path. With a newfound joy and excitement, this was when our dream of this new life began to take shape for us.
Now, here we are living in the beautiful, lush highlands of Boquete, Panama! After having spent seven years researching and dreaming of creating a new beginning we’re actually seeing the result of all that planning coming to life. When I think back to the beginning of all our talk of leaving California to find a totally different life, Its hard to believe how much we’ve managed to achieved since that dream began. We didn’t rush into anything, we were very patient. We knew that we wanted to be as smart as we could be and not make any really big mistakes. Like I said, even though we wanted a different life we certainly were’t running from anything so terrible, life may have been stressful in many ways but it was a good life. As time’s flying by so fast and our new life is beginning to feel less and less ’New’ and more and more, just ‘our life’, I can’t help but think about how much has changed for us and how thrilled we are with it all. Oftentimes in my life before this move I had a strange sensation of having almost ‘fallen’ into my life without having really put much thought into each step I had taken along my path. But now I feel as though I’ve invested so much more thought and intention into what I’m doing. Does that make any sense to you? Maybe this is just a natural progression of growing older and of paying more attention to what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and knowing what I want. Or maybe Scott & I have learned how to live in the moment and to travel through our lives with intention. Who knows? I’m pretty sure we’ve still got a ton to learn, but one thing I know for a fact…..right now, in this moment, life is good! Well, its so funny how much I have to write when I think I have nothing to say! Hah!
Cruising on a summer afternoon! That’s what I call living! I am so happy for you! 🙂
Soon you can write about my visit lol! I get what you mean though, we just settle in, pay the bills, go to the store and happy hours allow us to connect! I never went to happy hours in the States. When was there time? Lol. And I had seen enough people and talked enough in the dental office to want to just go home and put my pajamas on! Hope to see you soon!
Thanks, Holly. That was very inspirational. Your thoughts express the same things going through my mind these days. I’m looking forward to living life “on purpose and with purpose”! We look forward to taking you and Scott to happy hour – after all, we’re from wine country ala Washington! Neva and George Miller
Thanks Neva & George! By all means, fellow wine country folks! Looking forward to meeting you sometime!! Cheers!
Holly, this sounds just like the thoughts/sermon that was conveyed last Sunday at church. What Makes You Happy? It definitely is not more stuff. You could have written the sermon. 🙂
This is an absolutely fantastic post!! Bravo amiga
My thoughts exactly! Excellent post!!
Was beginning to worry something had happened, so glad to see you. Yes the greatest thing in life is to be debt free.
I have been reading non-stop (almost) for a week to catch up to real time this evening! Thanks for sharing, Holly you have a way with words.
Very good post. I love my new teaching job (took an Oct-April 2015 maternity-leave position; took a year-leave from my full-time teaching position [of 14 years same thing])…but I still just want to go home at the end of my day and put my pjs on…no energy to do anything else). This job involves coordinating and teaching experiential school in an athletic facility. I picked it as “something different” and is really an active position but…this winter stuff just kills it. The cold weather, amount of snow, and lack of daylight. Ug. My ideal would be teaching in Panama somewhere. 😜😎 Very glad to hear that you’re going further with your Spanish. Love that!! Hugs!! Can’t wait to see you again someday! Keep posting. I find everything you talk about, even the little things, very interesting! 😋😍